Confict Thesis Category

Phrenology, the Origins of Scientific Naturalism, and Herbert Spencer’s “Religion of the Heart”

Over the weekend I came across several interconnecting books and themes. The first was John van Wyhe’s excellent Phrenology and the Origins of Victorian Scientific Naturalism (2004), which traces the origins of scientific naturalism back to British phrenology. In this book Wyhe takes the “social interests” approach, resting on the “common-sense assumption,” he writes in […]

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Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science

Few subjects elicit stronger responses than the relationship between science and religion. How best to characterize this relationship? According to recent historical work, “No generalization has proved more seductive and tenacious than that of ‘conflict.’” Such generalizations, or assumptions, are widely prevalent in contemporary culture. In popular press, in journalism, and even among some academic […]

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The Agnostic Theology of Huxley and Tyndall

Earlier today I read Bernard Lightman’s short essay “Does the History of Science and Religion Change Depending on the Narrator? Some Atheist and Agnostic Perspectives” (2012) as a break from reading his edited volume Victorian Science in Context (1997). It was, as expected, excellent. Lightman’s answer is a resounding yes. In his estimation, “during the […]

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Sites of Speech at the British Association for the Advancement of Science

Earlier this month I mentioned Ciaran Toal’s “Preaching at the British Association for the Advancement of Science,” which argued that there was a “vast homiletic literature preached during the British Association meetings throughout the nineteenth century.” Narrowing his focus, a more recent essay by Toal, “Science, Religion and the Geography of Speech at the British […]

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A Brief Note on Cambridge’s History of Science Volume VI : Modern Life and Earth Sciences

Perhaps the most engaging—and perhaps most relevant for my current research interests—installment of this series is Peter J. Bowler and John V. Pickstone’s (eds.) The Cambridge History of Science Volume VI: Modern Life and Earth Sciences (2009). This volume seeks to present an “overview of the development of a diverse range of sciences through a […]

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Science, Progress and History: Essay Competition

The Science, Progress and History project, funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the University of Queensland, and as part of the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland, seeks to explore questions at the interface of history and the natural sciences, with a focus on laws, patterns and […]

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Preaching at the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Secularism of George Jacob Holyoake

Wrapping up a series of essays I have been reading from The British Journal for the History of Science, I now come to two interrelated and complimentary essays by Ciaran Toal, “Preaching at the British Association for the Advancement of Science: Sermons, Secularization and the Rhetoric of Conflict in the 1870s” (2012), and Michael Rectenwald, […]

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Huxley, Agnosticism, and the X-Club

In assessing the “climate of opinion” in Victorian Britain, and more specifically the context of the evolution debates and narratives of conflict between science and religion that bolstered them, I have been engaging with a number of articles and books about prominent nineteenth-century dramatis personae, including Charles Darwin, Richard Owen, Thomas Henry Huxley, John Tyndall, […]

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Darwin’s Rhetoric of Positive Theology in the Origin of Species

In his Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity, and the Oxford Debate (2009), Ian Hesketh stresses that the Origin, “far from being the secular text it is often presented as, establishes the theory of evolution from within the Christian framework.” Indeed, “Darwin was very careful to at least appear to be writing from within the […]

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Building Bridges and Burning Down Myths

In their highly stimulating and engrossing book, W. Mark Richardson and Wesley J. Wildman’s (eds.) Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue (1996), offer an interdisciplinary approach to “building bridges” between religion and science. The various sections of the book correspond to three major kinds of inquiry: historical studies, methodological analyses, and substantive dialogue. Each section […]

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